Exploring Arizona’s Cliff Dwellings

Mexico is well known for its well-preserved pre-Columbian ruins, but that doesn’t mean it has a monopoly on fascinating archaeological sites in North America. There were many tribes that lived throughout the southwestern United States that built homes and other structures that have survived the test of time, such as the Sinagua, who occupied central Arizona from 500 to about 1400 AD. The Sinagua built some of the most notable sites in the American Southwest, including the famous cliff dwelling Montezuma’s Castle.  

These sites are worth visiting because they provide valuable insight into how people lived before the arrival of European explorers. Many of these places can be found between Sedona and Phoenix, Ariz., making them easily accessible when you stay at WorldMark Phoenix South Mountain Preserve. Read on to learn about some of these fascinating sites and how you can explore them.

Montezuma’s Castle: Montezuma’s Castle’s reddish-brown walls blend seamlessly into a limestone cliff side near Camp Verde, Ariz. The site, built about 1,000 years ago, got its name from early European explorers who thought it was constructed by the Aztecs. Instead, the people who lived here were farmers and hunter-gatherers who crafted and traded pottery and other goods.

Two separate sites comprise Montezuma’s Castle. The first, the most intact of the two, is a five-story, 20-room complex that housed about 50 people. Castle “A,” the other structure, housed approximately 100 people in its 45 to 50 rooms, but much of it was damaged by fire. Despite its age, Montezuma Castle is one of the most intact examples of Native American cliff dwellings in the southwest. However, due to its deteriorating condition, visitors aren’t allowed inside of the structure. The structure can still be seen from a 1/3-mile trail, and you can also visit an on-site museum that features artifacts and exhibits that provide more detail about the lifestyle and culture of the Sinagua Indians.

Montezuma’s Castle Address:
2800 North Montezuma Castle Highway
Camp Verde, AZ 86322

Tuzigoot National Monument: Tuzigoot National Monument was an impressive 110-room pueblo built by the Sinaguans from 1100 to 1400 AD. In its heyday the pueblo, which had as many as 15 second-story rooms, housed as many as 230 people who farmed the fertile land of the Verde River floodplain and traded with other cultures throughout Arizona and New Mexico. The Tuzigoot pueblo is one of three major sites in the area, located about 20 miles southwest of Sedona near Clarksdale, Ariz. Bridgeport and Hatalacva, the other two sites, consisted of approximately 237 rooms and 60 rooms, respectively. However, unlike Tuzigoot, which was excavated and reconstructed in the 1930s, the other two were not rebuilt.

Visitors to the Tuzigoot National Monument embark on a self-guided tour on a trail that leads them through and around the pueblo. An on-site visitor’s center, open every day except on Christmas Day, showcases artifacts from the site, as well as exhibits that depict what life was like in the pueblo.

Tuzigoot National Monument Address:
25 Tuzigoot Road
Clarkdale, AZ 86324

Other Sites:

Walnut Canyon National Monument
Tonto National Monument

Where to stay:

WolrdMark Phoneix South Mountain Preserve
The resort is located at the base of South Mountain in the largest nature preserve within city limits in the world, with over 17,000 acres and 75 miles of trails. This is your gateway to discover some of Arizona’s natural treasures such as the Red Rocks of Sedona, Montezuma Castle and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World: the Grand Canyon.

WorldMark Phoenix South Mountain Preserve

WorldMark Phoenix South Mountain Preserve



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